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Types of Poem Forms - Alba Poems
Depending on which source you consult, Alba poems (aka Aube, Aubades, or Morning Love Songs) are claimed to have originated by several different cultures. However, all point to an emergence in the Middle Ages where Occitan Lyric poetry was born and the Alba poems evolved. For those not familiar with the term “Occitan” it refers to a number of Romance language dialects that were (and still are to a lesser extent) spoken in Southern France, Italy (Occitan Valleys), Monaco, and Spain’s Val d’ Aran regions.
As one can imagine there is nothing like the theme of adultery to inspire more than a few poems over the course of history. Again, the mystic and romance of knighthood tempting and sweeping ladies into an illicit relationship trumps other forbidden love affairs in terms of how many of these Alba poems were being performed by troubadours. Alba poems further expand this subject matter by alluding to the lust of lovers who are caught up in having to part from each other because their spouse(s) becomes either suspicious or possibly caught them.
Variations In Alba Poem Themes
One variant is the addition of a third character to the whole mix – who is a sympathetic guard or female friend who aids the lovers in their deception (usually a sentry or handmaid). Another variant is the subplot of the lovers becoming agitated with the one who aids them in covering up their affair by accusing them of being asleep on the job, not watchful, or getting them up too early. Still another variant is a jealous rival (usually male) who also covets the female cheater.
The Occitan Language
The Occitan language (which is a number of dialects combined into a common language but not always the same in different regions) is still spoken by several million people across France, Italy and Spain. The majority of people speaking Occitan are in rural parts of France. Technically, it is not one language, but a conglomerate of several regional languages with a common base.
The Spread of Alba Poem In Terms Of Popularity
Alba poems were sometimes performed in Northern France by trouvères in the Royal Courts, and referred to as “Aube” poems. While over in Germany, not to be left out Minnesingers, called the poems “Tagelied.” The entire fixed poem form eventually spread all over parts of Spain and even Portugal during the Medieval time period.
The Structure of An Alba Poem
- Albas can be of any length but generally they are short.
- The most common length of an Alba is three lines
- Albas are often a discussion between two lovers (Some are revolving around it being near day-break and arguing about whether or not they should leave their love nest. )
- Some Albas are abstract or metaphysical in topic, often where flora and fauna greet the new day in joy
- Refrains are warnings (usually by the guard or jealous lover) about how it is almost morning and the need to separate.
- Typical Albades are always in a strophic pattern (repeating refrain).
- Rhyme scheme of: 1, 1R, 1R, 2, 2R, 2R and refrain
When The Rooster Crows
The rooster soon crows
And with him my love now goes
My maiden already whispers she knows
“Lover come back,” I cry
Before my heart and I die
I cannot keep living a lie
My maiden already whispers she knows
Jerilee Wei © 2011
Examples of Alba Poems
Albas can be incredibly short poems, but at other times long in length. Older examples of them are sometimes religious in nature, and others can be considered profane. Here are a couple of examples (unfortunately most of the better ones do not have English translations easily found online):
Alba by Ezra Pound
Aubade by Philip Larkin (abstract/metaphysical example)
Book III, Troilus and Criseyde by Chaucer
False Love by Bernart de Venzac
Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare (Alba begins at the line: Wilt thou be gone?...)
The Sunne Rising by John Donne